Water is our lifeblood but weak laws and mismanagement have left our rivers drying up and choking on pollution. This month, the Victorian government is seeking input from the community on several vital issues concerning water use and rivers in Victoria. It’s critical that our governments hear the community’s concerns and act to improve water protections.
Protecting Victoria’s vital urban rivers
In 2017, EJA played a key role in the passage and implementation of the Yarra River Protection (wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017. It was the first time a Victorian river had a single piece of legislation devoted to its protection and set up a long-term environmental framework for conserving and managing the river. The new law also established a Birrarung River Council including Traditional Owners to advise and advocate for the river and its surrounds. It was a great success and pioneered a new community-focused and collaborative means of river protection in Victoria.
After the success of the Yarra protections, two new processes are underway to protect and restore some of Victoria’s other key urban waterways. The law and policy review programs are led by independent Ministerial Advisory Committees (MAC). One MAC is looking at the future of the waterways in Melbourne’s west. The other MAC is considering future management of the Barwon River system in the Geelong region. Both have produced discussion papers for community input.
We have been collaborating with community groups on our advice for reforms that would best rehabilitate and protect these river systems in the long term and will make submissions to both processes.
You can also have your say. The Victorian government has designed an online survey and consultation form to gather community input and we strongly encourage you to participate.
Have your say on protection of the Barwon River system before 3 November.
Have your say on protecting the waterways of the west before 17 November.
Long Term Water Resources Assessment
The Victoria Government has released a draft of its Long-term Water Resources Assessment. This is an analysis of Victoria’s water resources including a consideration of the balance between water for consumptive use and water for the environment.
The broad findings are:
- There has been a long-term decline in available water resources in Victoria since 1975 and in general this trend has been to the detriment of the environment.
- The construction of the LTWRA is problematic in that it conflates any water in a water system, other than where diverted or extracted for ‘consumptive’ use, as ‘environmental’.
- There is a significant and growing gulf between water management and the health and the biodiversity of river and water systems.
A key and important purpose of the LTWRA is to inform the preparation of Sustainable Water Strategies, which are long-term planning documents for water use. The LTWRA will be informing new SWSs in the Central Region (including Geelong and Melbourne) and Gippsland in the next 12-18 months. In turn, the SWSs will have an important influence on water management in all waterways and catchments including those the subject of special laws or policy processes (Yarra, Maribyrnong, Werribee, Barwon, Moorabool).
Water resources in the Latrobe Valley & Gippsland
How water resources are managed and distributed in the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland area will be considered in the preparation of a ‘land use vision’ for the Latrobe Valley. The fate of water resources will be profoundly affected by the closure and decommissioning of the Hazelwood mine and prospective closure of other mines in the area. The prospect of vast ‘pit lakes’ filling old mine sites is on the agenda along with options far better for healthy waterways and wetlands.